SUV sales overshadow passenger cars in Australia

SUV sales overshadow passenger cars in Australia
Highlights

Passenger cars are haemorrhaging market share in Australia as sales of sport utility vehicles shatter records and the gap between the two segments shrinks to its smallest, propelled by the popularity of compact SUVs.

Passenger cars are haemorrhaging market share in Australia as sales of sport utility vehicles shatter records and the gap between the two segments shrinks to its smallest, propelled by the popularity of compact SUVs.


Passenger cars still take up the larger share of Australia's estimated $61 billion auto market. Sales were around 40,000 of the just over 90,000 vehicles sold last month, compared with 30,000 SUV sales. But with passenger car sales sliding 7.3 percent from a year earlier and SUV sales gaining 5.8 percent, the gap between the two shrank to its smallest, 10 years of data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries shows.

"That gap is closing quite quickly, and we're expecting that trend to continue to be driven by the smaller, compact SUVs," said Spencer Little, an industry analyst with Australian market research firm IBISWorld. "They're more versatile - families love them. Their price is lower, they're smaller than the larger SUV models but still roomy."

The spaciousness of small SUVs and their off-road capabilities compared to passenger cars helped boost their sales by 28 percent in the first five months of 2015 from a year earlier, compared with gains of 12 percent and 6 percent for medium and large SUVs, respectively. Bestsellers include the Holden Trax, Hyundai (005380.KS) ix35 and Nissan (7201.T) Qashqai. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of SUV models sold in Australia more than doubled to 91 from 39, while the most popular segments of passenger car models only rose to 112 from around 85, according to Richard Johns, head of Australian Automotive Intelligence.

The rise of the SUV in Australia is not unique. Sales have surged in China, the United States and Britain in recent years as the roar of a 4x4 and its better fuel economy and handling than ordinary cars became the calling cards of the SUV. In Australia, the soaring sales in compact SUVs are a bright spot for the autos market, which shrank 2 percent last year in a slowing Australian economy. IBISWorld forecasts the overall market would see subdued annual growth of 0.6 percent for the next five years.

For graphic on SUV sales, click link.reuters.com/xas84w
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